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Australian police roll out new missing person messaging system

Sydney, AUSTRALIA, 11 MARCH 2021

The NSW Police Force has unveiled an SMS geo-targeting alert system to assist them in locating high-risk missing persons across the state.

State Crime Command Director, Detective Chief Superintendent Darren Bennett, said the new geo-targeting tool would be invaluable in helping police locate missing people when there are serious concerns for their safety.

“As these situations are unpredictable, the launch date of this new alert system cannot be determined in advance,” Det Ch Supt Bennett said.

“We now have the capabilities to use this system when there is an operational need in NSW and therefore want the community to be aware these functions exist; in the event they receive an SMS in the future.”

When the tool is used, a brief message can be sent out to all mobile devices within a defined area. The message can include a brief description of the missing person, as well as details of how to report a sighting.

“This system is currently used by states and territories to send out alerts within specific areas in the event of likely emergency situations, such as flood, bush fire or other extreme weather conditions,” said Det Ch Supt Bennett.

Missing Persons Registry Coordinator, Detective Inspector Glen Browne said the circumstances in which people go missing are varied, as are the associated risks.

“It is proposed that the use of geographically targeted SMS messages will only be used in high-risk circumstances, as determined by the new missing persons operating procedures which have been implemented state-wide,” Det Insp Browne said.

“An assessment of all available and relevant information will be made in consultation with the Missing Persons Registry and local Police Area Command or Police District, before an SMS can be sent.”

“Examples of missing persons considered high-risk include people living with dementia who may wander from their homes, children with developmental delays who are separated from their family or carers, and young children who go missing in large crowds.”

“In each of these situations, serious concerns are held for a person’s safety if they are not located quickly – making the SMS tool invaluable to first-responders,” Det Insp Browne said.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services, David Elliott said there was no time to waste when someone was reported missing.

“Police always act as quickly as possible to find anyone who is reported missing and this tool will mean the public will be able to assist almost immediately,” Mr Elliott said.

“The community should never underestimate the crucial role they can play in potentially saving someone from harm and if you receive this message, we ask that you keep your eyes out and help police to reunite someone with their loved ones.”

The Missing Persons Registry has engaged telecommunications providers, Telstra, Optus and TPG to facilitate the use and implementation of the SMS geo-targeting tool, utilising the existing emergency alert framework.

Chief Customer Officer, Telstra Enterprise, John Ieraci said technology innovation was crucial to improving community safety.

“We’re thrilled to be assisting the NSW Police Force Missing Persons Registry with the ability to notify the community in critical missing persons cases and hope it will help our first responders make some happy reunions,” Mr Ieraci said.

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